It’s amazing to see that Saint Patrick’s feast day is celebrated internationally by many different cultures and peoples, but his popularity may not always be for the right reasons—many that participate celebrate not for Saint Patrick’s sake, but for the sake of partying and celebrating in itself. This tendency to lose sight of the reason behind the celebration dominates many American’s perceptions of the feast day of Saint Patrick, and drowns out the great history, faith, and victory that his feast day celebrates. Saint Patrick’s life offers an amazing story of how God can be a major source of relief in our lives, how He works in mysterious ways, and how He guides us to where we need to be if we allow Him; by keeping these things in mind, we can celebrate in a way that can be fulfilling.
Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a Catholic family, but according to his memoir, he “knew not the true God” until he was captured and placed into bondage. As a teenager, Patrick was taken to Ireland by pirates, and was forced to work as a slave by tending to farm animals. In this suffering, and in his lonesome despair, Patrick learned to see and rely on God’s love—in his memoir, The Confession of Saint Patrick, he explains how his reliance on God for hope and solace offered incredible fruit: “The love of God and His fear grew and grew in me more and more, as did faith… I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.” Eventually, after years of enslavement, Patrick had grown much in his faith, and God came to Patrick in a dream instructing him to escape and return home.
Once at home, an angel appeared to Patrick in a dream, compelling him to return to Ireland and share his faith. Trusting God’s plan, he studied to join the priesthood, and was eventually ordained a bishop before being sent to Ireland to spread the Gospel. He dedicated forty years of his life to the Church, and suffering and enduring much as he converted people, built churches, and worked miracles across Ireland. His perseverance against adversity contributed greatly to the development and prosperity of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and offers an inspiring example of dedication to spreading His word.
Although he lived in the 4th and 5th centuries, the struggles and actions of Saint Patrick can still be admired and related to our lives as Catholics today. In a lonely, unfamiliar land, Saint Patrick turned to God, and was provided with shelter from pain and distress. Likewise, when our lives move in unexpected directions, giving us reasons to despair or panic, we must try to remember that our lives and fears can be trusted to God, and that He will console us. One can imagine that Patrick was overwhelmed when he was brought to Ireland, but God used this as a part of His plan: He drew Patrick closer to Him, and then used him to reach out to and bring many to the light of His love. Saint Patrick’s life, although marked by difficulty and suffering, is surely one to be celebrated as noble and holy.
Saint Patrick’s Day offers us a time to reflect upon the life of a great man, how the Lord works in our lives, and how we can give ourselves to the Lord for His noble purposes. So celebrate: the Bishop granted a dispensation from fasting from meat this Friday* for this life lived so gloriously and graciously, so a special meal for this occasion can offer a reminder of how a life lived with Him in mind can be truly satisfying.
Written by: Alex Esperanza, Restless Heart Communications
*You can only eat meat this Friday if you abstain from meat the following day, Saturday, March 18. This is the official decision of Bishop Estevez for the diocese of St. Augustine.